Dark spots – two of the most despised words in women’s beauty and skincare vocabulary. We all know we hate dark spots, but we often don’t know how to treat them and how to prevent them from forming. At Sundriven®, we are passionate about educating women on the causes of accelerated aging and how to treat your skin with the loving care it deserves. To learn more about dark spots, we spoke with Dr. Ottuso, a Florida-based dermatologist with more than 23 years of experience.
Sundriven: What are the most common types of dark spots?
Dr. Ottuso: A lot of people don’t realize there are multiple kinds. The most common benign forms of dark spots are freckles, solar lentigos (sometimes known as liver spots), seborrheic keratosis, and moles. Melanoma, which is the most serious type of skin cancer, can also present as a dark spot.
Sundriven: What causes these dark spots to form?
Dr. Ottuso: Freckles and moles can be hereditary, but they can also be caused by sun exposure. Solar lentigos, as the name implies, is caused by damage from the sun, as is melanoma. We still don’t entirely know what causes seborrheic keratosis, but it is believed that they can form due to sun exposure.
Sundriven: Where on the body do these dark spots typically form?
Dr. Ottuso: While seborrheic keratosis can occur anywhere on the body, freckles, moles, solar lentigos, and melanoma most frequently occur where the sun hits the most, including the face, hands, arms, and shoulders.
Sundriven: Many women with dark spots fear that it may not be benign and that it could be cancerous. How can you tell them apart?
Dr. Ottuso: In order to spot melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancers, keep an eye on any new moles or growths, and any existing growths that start to change. I always tell my patients to familiarize themselves with the ABCDEs of melanoma.
“A” refers to asymmetrical. A benign mole is symmetrical, meaning the two sides match in size. An asymmetrical mole is a melanoma warning sign. “B” is for borders. A benign mole will have even and smooth borders, whereas melanoma often has uneven edges. “C” refers to color, in that benign moles are a single color, typically a shade of brown. If a mole is a variety of colors or has changed brown colors, it could be melanoma. “D” is for diameter. Often, melanoma is larger in diameter than a benign mole. And “E” is for evolving. A benign mole will look the same, but if a mole starts to evolve and change, either in size, shape, color, or other trait, it could be a sign of melanoma.
Sundriven: How can someone treat and remove their dark spots?
Dr. Ottuso: Melanoma requires treatment by a medical professional, and it could involve surgery, radiation, medications, or other treatment. For benign spots, there are a few different treatments a dermatologist can perform that can help reduce the appearance, such as chemical peels, bleaching agents like hydroquinone, laser resurfacing, and microdermabrasion, to name a few.
Sundriven: While treatments are great for minimizing current dark spots, how can women prevent the formation of future dark spots?
Dr. Ottuso: The first thing is to avoid tanning beds and to always wear sun protection when you’re out in the sun. I recommend wearing a sunscreen with a SPF between 30 and 50 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and is water resistant. Make sure you apply 30 minutes before going outdoors, as well. Beyond these daily protective measures, I recommend getting a thorough skin exam with your dermatologist once a year.